RAVENNA -- Education and prevention took center stage during two presentations at the Portage County sales and use tax subcommittee meeting last week.

The committee has been reviewing several proposals by county organizations that target the substance abuse epidemic. Each proposal is vying for a portion of the 0.25 percent sales tax imposed by county commissioners last year that is expected to raise roughly $25 million. $13 million is planned for an expansion of the county jail.

Recently, the committee heard from University Hospitals Portage Medical Center and from the adult probation department about increased ankle-monitoring systems and the drug court.

Last week, the committee heard from the Portage School Districts Anti-Drug Coalition and Family & Community Services with Townhall II.

The schools, coordinated by former Aurora Superintendent Russ Bennett, director of the Cuyahoga County Educational Service Center, propose working with Children's Advantage to begin a new, full-time case manager system. Advantage would hire 12 staff members, one for each school district in the county, at an annual cost of about $722,000.

This system would allow for year-round, full-time coverage of districts, compared with numerous part-time consultants currently working in some of the districts. It's unclear what role existing consults would play if this proposal was approved.

Children's Advantage is a contractor with the Portage Mental Health & Recovery Board, led by committee chairman Joel Mowrey.

The proposal also calls for an expansion of the Too Good For Drugs, Project Alert and Life Skills curricula supervised by Townhall II. Each district would then be fully equipped to provide mental health and drug-related counseling for all students.

At a price of $110,000 annually, F&CS would hire five part-time peer recovery specialists, who act as mentors, guiding recovering addicts through difficult times to avoid relapses, said Patrick White, a coordinator at F&CS.

An additional $250,000 would be used by F&CS to purchase and restore two properties in Ravenna to create additional recovery houses. $46,000 would be needed annually to operate both.

Email: mmerchant@recordpub.com

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